Two engineering researchers at Ohio State University (OSU), Columbus demonstrated that walking at varying speeds burns about 20 percent more calories as compared to walking at a steady pace. The study is believed to be the first to associate the influence of shifting walking pace with the number of calories burned – also known as ‘metabolic cost’.

Performing The Study: What Burns More Fat

Volunteers were asked to walk on treadmills while varying their walking pace and keeping the speed of the treadmill constant. Hence, when the volunteers walked with a faster pace, they moved to the front of the treadmill, and when they walked slower, they moved to the back.

Measuring the cost of varying walking speeds of the participants, the researchers made the following observation: The metabolic rate calculated for oscillating-speed walking was found to be significantly higher than that calculated for constant-speed walking. More precisely, the increase was between six to 20 percent for speed fluctuations.

Manoj Srinivasan, co-author, head of the movement lab at OSU, and Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering explained that such experiments generally change the speed of the treadmill as well. These observations are more reliable; since the latter suggests that the treadmill does some of the work instead of the walking participate.

Significance Of The Study

Prof. Srinivasan commented on the findings:

“Measuring the metabolic cost of varying speeds is a vital aspect, since people don’t generally walk at constant speeds. Our study demonstrates that varying speeds help increase the cost of walking significantly”.

The study highlights the fact that researchers have been underestimating the amount of calories that can be burned simply by walking daily or indulging in various sports. It also demonstrates that energy can be burned by varying speeds, which is not generally taken into account when estimating the number of calories burned.

The Role Of Changing Speeds

Moreover, the researchers found that about 8 percent of the calories we burn daily are exhausted simply in starting and stopping walking.

“Walking – at any speed – burns some amount of energy, but when you change the speed, you somewhat press the gas pedal”. Changing walking pace exerts a change in the kinetic energy, which makes the legs work harder, and thus burns slightly more calories.

In order to burn more fat while walking, Prof. Srinivasan suggests the following:

“Simply indulge in weird things – walking with a backpack, walking with weights attached to your legs, etc. Walk for some time, then stop, and then repeat. Also, walk in a curve instead of walking in a straight line”. The study was published in the journal Biology Letters.